In general, I have no interest in telling people how to text. So long as I receive prompt and encouraging responses to nudes and particularly vulnerable messages, I don’t fixate on whether someone is an “LOL” or “hehe” person, or even if they use Bitmojis profusely. And yet, I have increasingly grown to despise a certain response, one that clutters my iMessage alerts and leaves me scrolling endlessly through long-established group chats.
iMessage reactions drive me mad. I hate the cartoonish “haha,” I despise the thumbs-down, and if I never had to see the puffy “!!” ever again, I would live a more peaceful life. I do not differentiate between them, because I perceive them all the same: They are a lazy nonresponse to a beautiful message I have painstakingly written. Can you not grant me a single-word response, or even a humble emoji? If you don’t like my message, please elaborate why instead of sending me a thumbs down. Or, if I’ve said something where it’s embarrassingly clear that I’m trying to be funny, and I’ve failed abjectly, spare me some shame by simply ignoring the quip. Hitting me with a “haha” reaction is just salt on the wound.
Now I can certainly understand someone’s reasoning behind using them. Perhaps you’re in a group chat with eight people, and you weren’t paying attention during a heartfelt conversation; therefore, you want to “love” some particularly touching texts. How nice that iMessage has now given me an efficient tool to acknowledge my friends, and to express outward gratitude for them, you might think. And that certainly is a kind thought. But you know what does not make me feel particularly loved? Taking a shower during someone’s tapping spree, and then coming back to an iPhone with 45 new messages, the majority of which are reactions that I can only see by scrolling through the conversation. Why not simply respond with a note about the beauty of friendship, or a nice, manageable row of heart emojis?
This feature also can be dangerous: Who among us has not casually revisited an old text conversation, notable for its intensity, and come dangerously close to accidentally “reacting” to a particularly fraught message? And, per usual, non-iPhone users have it worse. As a fellow reaction-hater noted in Slate, those poor souls receive a text spelling out the reaction. Hell!
I know this issue is divisive. When I casually raised to co-workers how much I loathe reactions, many proudly proclaimed how much they like them and enthusiastically elaborated why: They’re a “courteous” conversation ender, they’re affirming, they’re efficient. All of their feelings are legitimate, and I respect them all the same for believing in them. But I remain unswayed, with one exception: When you’ve finalized a plan with a friend, and you want to acknowledge it with a thumbs-up or heart reaction. But otherwise, please spare me the superfluous notification.
As the future unfolds endlessly before me, that simple request becomes increasingly unrealistic. It feels as if every day, a new friend or loved one starts to experiment with reactions — and every day, my anguish grows. It’s only a matter of time before I, too, start using them too. I lazily and noncommittally “thumbs-down” at the thought.